bent shaft paddle?

I am 6’4", and paddle a Swift Shearwater. Most of my trips include large open water as well as snakey creeks, rivers. I have been using a straight shaft 57 inches long. I can move my boat well with this, but I have been wondering if I could get more speed/efficiency out of a bent especially crossing large expances of open water.

My total load is around 280 to 300 pounds of me and gear. So, any comments? I am concerned it would be difficult to do corrective strokes or even J strokes. I have never used a bent shaft and wonder if this is something I should look into.

I’m betting you’d like a bent
Sounds like you’ve already got decent straight-shaft technique. Adding a bent for a little more speed and power on crossings, would probably be very rewarding.

You can still J with a bent, if you chooe to. Or, you can hit and switch. You get spoiled by how easy it is to switch sides with a bent. The shorter shaft and upturned blade (when coming across) makes it very quick and efficient to switch. With the blade upturned, you don’t have to lift it nearly as high to clear the gunnels.

Try it, I think you’d like it. With the relatively high sides of a Shearwater, I’d no way go shorter than 52, probably 53 or 54.

sound advice
bentshafts are great tools, the only for people like me. you’re a big guy with a big canoe. i’d say at least 52 inches. you can always order a ZRE rec. factory second for less than $150 and have it shipped uncut. then cut the shaft down to 55 or so and start from there. trim down as needed. once you find a length you like, glue the handle in.

more sound advice

– Last Updated: Sep-17-07 10:37 AM EST –

There is a sometime tendency here to talk folks into buying really short bentshaft paddles, regardless of padder size or specific boat characteristics. If you buy an already short Zav, it's expensive to "fix" if it doesn't work out.

The choice of a bent or not, depends to a great extent on paddling style, particularly the forward with correction and recovery. Remember a bent has a dedicated power face and often grip. For instance, when paddling solo, I prefer the pitch stroke forward with a palm roll to an in-water recovery. A bent will not really work for that. Also some turning maneuvers are done with palm rolls which eschew a bent. To me bents are also awkward for the Canadian forward stroke. Bottom line, choose the right paddle for the preferred paddling style.

I use bents in tandem but know the stern station is limited to out of water recovery, so also carry a straight as an alternative from time to time.


My experience
this season in a Bell Magic: I measured out to fit a 50" bent (5’-10"). It turned out to be too short, made me feel like I was reaching for the water - and I am using 6" seat drop bolts. Picked up a 52" Bell/Mitchell and I am lovin’ it. Great for burning up the miles, hit and switch is a mindless exercise in being a human engine. But I am using a highly re-shaped Bending Branches straight shaft for landings & launchings, as well as puttering about the shoreline. It is a 56".

So I would suggest maybe a 54" and 58" combo?

Come to Raystown and you are welcome to try my sticks.


Double blade?
Yes you can do sit and switch and a j stroke.Bents get a little funny for the Canadian Stroke and it may be a matter of dedicated grip over the paddle angle. The Canadian Stroke can be used at high cadence.

I have a friend with a Shearwater and for those ugly head on wind days he uses a double blade. That DB also comes in handy for the solo unassisted reentry.

As always try before you buy if you can to see if it suits your style.

Bent shaft in Shearwater
I’ve had a Shearwater for 4 seasons now. I think I’ve about come to the conclusion that a bent works better than a straight to move that particular model along. In my other more solos I greatly prefer straights. I’m seriously considering converting my Shearwater into a rowboat with a rowing rig.

Regarding paddle length: Paddle length is a very personal matter, but FWIW, I have a long torso, long arms and stand 6’2” tall. I generally use a 58” paddle (depending on shaft length actually) and use a 54” bent shaft.

Paddle chosen to fit stance

Let’s start with a little John WInters. A paddleblade is most effective when withing 10 dg, +/- of square to the stroke

When we kneel, we can rotate farther and reach farther forward to the catch. Straight blades square up to a forward stroke for ~ 14 inches forward of the knee. More torso muscles are engaged so more power generated per stroke. WHen you need one powerfull stroke to make it into an eddy; best be kneeling with a straight. As the stroke is located further forward on the hull, less yaw is created.

When we sit, rotation and reach are proscribed. 12dg bents come square to the stroke from the knee to mid thigh. The sitting position and reduced rotation are more restful so we can do it longer, which works well for distance paddling. As the stroke has slipped aft along the hull, more yaw is generated, and the 12dg bent, by definition, compromised John’s 10 dg rule, so if less effective for corrections, prys and draws. The reduced rotation, coupled with shorter shaft and almost always smaller blade increases cadence and forward speed.

The double blade may call a lightening strike from the otherwise beneficent deity of single stick solo, but actually works pretty well if the hull is narrow/tumblehomed/whatever, to allow ~ vertical strokes. The tricky left-right sequence pretty much puts directional difficulties to bed and the higher cadence yields more speed.

Note that single blades sticks float their own weight; double blades do so only when used ~vertically. When used horizontally, the paddler is holding that double blade in the air at arm’s length. Ugh!

So there you have it. Take one of each and change when you start to get sore or conditions suggest.

I am another one who thinks that
you would like a bent shaft.

It will only take you a day or two to get used to it, and I am betting that once you use it you will never go back to a straight one.

I can do every stroke with the bent that I ever did with the straight and in my estimation the J is even easier with the bent.

All my stright shaft ones have not been used in years.



bent vs. straight
i only use a straight shaft for canoeing canadian style in my 16-foot tandem stripper. i’ve got a downwind sail rig for my solo, and i use a bent shaft even then to steer. the sweep stroke can be a lifesaver when screeming down the face of a wave under sail, and i feel like i get more power out of a bent in those situations. BUT, i don’t do class II or above on the river side, not on a regular basis, anyway.

i also like all types of canoeing: canadian, hit and switch, outrigger, poling, etc. and can see the value of straight paddles and techniques with kneeling, etc. in the end, if you want speed and efficiency, get a bent shaft.

Bent Shaft vs. Wing Paddle
I thought you were using a wing paddle and that would be the ultimative way to go for going fast?

I am 6’5" and use a 54" bent shaft.
I bought a 51" first and it was too short.

7 degree?

– Last Updated: Sep-18-07 10:06 PM EST –

"you would like a bent shaft. It will only take you a day or two to get used to it, and I am betting that once you use it you will never go back to a straight one. I can do every stroke with the bent that I ever did with the straight and in my estimation the J is even easier with the bent. All my stright shaft ones have not been used in years."

I assume that if you are soloing a tandem canoe you would use a 7 degree and not a 14 degree?

Thanks to all
for the info shared on this thread. It will be a nice weekend here in Wisconsin. I may have to try a few bent shafts to see how it goes. I appreciate the comments.